There’s a fair bit of confusion about what led to the Fijian coup, even from those who enacted it. So what really motivated it?

Manager of a major Fijian media source, speaking exclusively to Crikey: “This is the third grand vision for Fiji. Rabuka has one in 1987, the Christian state vision. Speight had one for creating wealth for the indigenous people and ethnically cleansing non-Fijians, but that didn’t last and democracy was brought back through the intervention of the military forces. Bainimarama wanted to join with the Speight force but was talked out of it by his saner officers, whom he has since marginalised. Bainimarama brought the vision of a ten year military rule. He put it to the Great Council of Chiefs who knocked it on the head, and the resentment, bitterness and anger to overthrow the Great Council of Chiefs backed democracy has brought Bainimarama to this point. There are some personal demons he has relating to the fact of wanting to support Speight, which he can’t deny. He’s almost like an obsessive compulsive who is trying to wash his hands of 2000. He speaks obsessively of ‘washing away’ the people and the actions of 2000. There’s a personal vendetta angle in all of this, which explains why he challenged Laisenia Qarase, who he sees as the person who usurped his military authority back in 2000. He’s the most dangerous of the three messiahs with their perverse visions of what Fiji should be.”

The Economist: Commodore Bainimarama harbours an intense hatred of the Qarase government, though he himself initially installed it after the 2000 coup. Mr Qarase has since won two elections. But the commander has challenged his government’s legitimacy and flouted its orders with increasing boldness. Accusing it of going soft on the perpetrators of a previous coup in May 2000, and of a mutiny that November, he promised a “clean-up”. Many sympathised with this. But snatching power has thoroughly tarnished his former anti-coup mission. The commander has few friends left outside the armed forces. Even his long-time protector, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the president, who is in poor health, refused to rubber-stamp his quirky citation of a “doctrine of necessity”.

Fijian Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes, speaking on The 7.30 Report: “I can tell you what the real reasons are, and there’s two. One is, he’s in a state of self preservation. There has been widespread corruption in the military for some years and also he’s been resistant to the investigation into the murder of the counter-revolutionary warfare soldiers in 2000. There were four of them murdered by the military and we believe that he has some questions to answer in that regard himself. And secondly, that he’s a front man. He’s a front man as Rabuka was in ’87 and Speight was in 2000. Bainimarama is a front man for power-seeking people in Fiji that failed at the last election who are not able to gain power legitimately, so they’re using him as a means to obtain that power.”

Dominic Moran for ISN Security Watch: Matters came to a head with the government’s introduction of the Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Unity Bill on 4 May 2005. The bill came under immediate attack from the political opposition and Bainimarama for providing an amnesty for those detained in connection with the 2000 coup and mutiny. Bainimarama and Qarase have been locked in an intractable dispute over the bill, which would tip the balance of power against the commodore. The prime minister’s refusal until last Thursday to drop the reconciliation legislation was a primary motivating factor behind the military overthrow.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama: “The primary objective of the interim military government is to take the country towards good governance, rid us of corruption and bad practices, and at the same time promote the well-being of Fiji and its people at the earliest possible opportunity…”

Peter Fray

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